A 60-49 semifinal win over IKM-Manning put the Pella Christian girls basketball team into the program’s first ever State Championship game, and sets up a rematch of one of their three losses this season, as the Eagles will face Western Christian. Pella Christian overcame a nine-point deficit in the first quarter with a 12-2 run to open up the second frame and finished the half trailing by two at 26-24.
“We had a stretch there where we [the coaches] had to just kind of calm them down and say ‘hey, just keep working what you’re doing, keep pushing the ball,’ and I told them they just needed to believe in themselves. We knew what we were trying to do out there, and then our girls went on that run,” said Lady Eagles’ head coach Kevin Van Maanen. “Once we got back into it, then I thought we’d be ok and would be settled back in, but I knew it would be a dogfight the rest of the way.”
From there, the teams battled back and forth through the third quarter, and an incredible half-court shot made by Paige Engbers just as the horn sounded gave the Lady Eagles a five-point cushion headed into the final period. From there, Pella Christian’s senior leaders combined fundamentally sound sets on offense with strong play on defense to close out the Wolves with a 13-7 advantage in the final quarter.
Christina Nolte finished with a team-high 14 points, and Tayler Stursma added 12 for Pella Christian, who improves to 23-3 on the season and will face Western Christian in the Class 2A State Finals. The Wolfpack defeated the Lady Eagles 74-72 on January 14th in Pella, and earned their ticket to the championship game by knocking off the previous unbeaten defending state champs, OA-BCIG 62-54. Van Maanen says his team is looking forward to having another crack at Western Christian in the season’s biggest game.
“In a way, the kind of did [want to face Western Christian again]. I don’t know if when Western won if that gave our girls more motivation or not, but it’s going to be a fun game again,” said Van Maanen. “The first time we played, it was a very highly contested game, up-and-down, very well-played; so it’s going to be a fun game and a fun atmosphere for both teams.”
You can hear the live broadcast of tonight’s Class 2A Girls State Championship game, starting at approximately 7:40 p.m. on 92.1 fm KRLS. Tip-off between the Lady Eagles and the Wolfpack is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.